By Anja Bless
Drive, an original Australian work by Rebecca Meston is a captivating three-hander that follows the true story of the unravelling of the life of Lisa Nowak, a successful and career driven astronaut, as she travels across the United States to confront her ex-lover’s new girlfriend. Brought from South Australia to Theatreworks in St Kilda, it is well worth the evening out.
From the moment the lights come up, the setting of the stage instantly captivates the audience. Lizzy Falkland’s performance as Nowak draws the same focus of the audience as that which she exudes as the character. Falkland easily dominates each scene as only Nowak would, however some falters in her accent and a lack of light and shade in the characterisation leaves the audience wanting in terms of seeing the breadth of her abilities.
The slips in the American accents and the need for light and shade is a drawback overall for the piece. However, Christopher Pitman as Nowak’s husband is likewise an extremely believable character, drawing empathy from the audience just as intended. Pitman also play’s Nowak’s ex-lover and his distinctive characterisations of the two roles were a strength for most of the performance. His transformation in everything from voice to physicality made him almost unrecognisable when he stepped out not as Nowak’s husband, but as her lover. However, this distinction did fade as the performance went on. Whether this was intentional as the men in Nowak’s life became lost to her into the void is unclear.
The performances were only enhanced by the exceptional sound design by Ian Moorhead. The near perfect timing with Falkland and the work by director Sasha Zahra on this and the other seamless transitions should be commended. However, the use of a ‘Siri’ as a sort of AI companion throughout the piece was somewhat confusing, and occasionally distracting. A simple GPS navigator would have likely sufficed as Falkland’s performance left the role of the AI, as a means of expressing her internal conflicts, unnecessary.
The set design by Meg Wilson further assisted in drawing audiences into Nowak’s journey, whether that was floating in space or on the freeway. In particular, the Perspex screen suspended to the rear of stage created a useful focal point for helping the narrative through its twists and turns in time and space. It’s manipulation of the projection of the actors’ voices further enhanced this effect. The story, performances and set were further heightened by Wilson’s simple, yet effective, lighting solutions.
The narrative by Meston was cohesive and engaging. It gives room for justice to be given to the inner turmoil faced by the dynamic Nowak, jumping across space and time without losing the central through line or the audience’s attention. However, it was perhaps lacking in its ability to give room for some relief from the building tension. The ending too is somewhat abrupt and the conclusion of the story leaves the audience relying on Wikipedia after the show to uncover the final outcome.
As a piece of emerging Australian theatre, Drive is well worth seeing. The story is engaging, the performances moving, and the production value extremely high. Where it falters will only improve with time and refinement, so best to catch this talent here and now as their trajectory should only be onward and upward.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.